On Wednesday, December 7, 2022, the Government of Sint Maarten represented by the Hon. Minister of Justice Anna Richardson and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) represented by Director of the UNOPS Multi-Country Office for Panama, Costa Rica and the English & Dutch Speaking Caribbean, Mr. Alejandro Rossi signed the Letter of Agreement for the execution of the first phase of the new prison project termed “Sint Maarten Rule of Law Facilities”.
The Sint Maarten Rule of Law Facilities project will define a new model of prison infrastructure that will benefit both the prison population and the employees of the prison, ensuring full compliance of human rights and the consideration of social, gender and environmental components in its design. The first phase of this project is funded by the Government of the Netherlands through its Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) for an amount of US$ 4 million. Phase 1 is estimated to take 20 months in total, and will deliver a comprehensive master plan, that will include the design for transitional facilities for the temporary housing of prisoners, as well as the design and procurement process for the construction of the long term facility.
Present at the signing of the agreements were the Hon. Prime Minister Ms. Silveria E. Jacobs, State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Mrs. Alexandra van Huffelen, who joined from The Hague virtually, Minister Richardson, and UNOPS representative Mr. Rossi, who were all supported by their support staff. Along with the signing of the Letter of Agreement between Sint Maarten and UNOPS, a Project Agreement was also signed between State Secretary van Huffelen on behalf of the Netherlands government and Mr. Rossi on behalf of UNOPS.
Due to several structural challenges over the past decades, Sint Maarten’s detention infrastructure reached a critical juncture, as a result of which firm decisions had to be taken on a new course for the country’s detention system. To this end, the Minister of Justice with support from her colleague Ministers and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations, since taking office in 2020, made strong efforts towards improving the country’s current prison facility for both employees and prisoners. A strong criminal justice system is a fundamental pillar for compliance with human rights and freedoms, legal certainty and good governance for citizens.
At the signing of the agreement Minister Richardson stated, “I am elated that the realization of Sint Maarten’s new prison is one step closer with the signing of the Letter of Agreement and the Project Agreement. I am looking forward to a new prison that will offer sufficient detention capacity and being a facility that complies with all international standards regarding human rights.
“I would further like to sincerely thank the Council of Ministers for its support, the State Secretary and her team at BZK, Mr. Alejandro Rossi and his extraordinary team at UNOPS, and my team consisting of members from my Cabinet, Judicial Affairs, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DBB) and the prison. Thank you for helping the country arrive at this point and I look forward to the start of phase one of this project”.
State Secretary Van Huffelen emphasized the importance of the signing of the agreements for the Sint Maarten community stating, “We are very happy to be signing this agreement today. A lot of people have been working very hard towards this moment to ensure the building of a new prison that will be up to international standards. The two countries as well as the United Nations, have joined forces to get this off the ground. It is an important step forward.”
The government of the Netherlands has made US$30 million available for the improvements of the prison system of Sint Maarten, of which US$4 million is provided for the first phase of this project. State Secretary Van Huffelen stated, “I am very pleased that by joining our efforts, we can ensure that the prison system on Sint Maarten improves and will be in line with international standards to ensure human rights. I am happy that together we are making this happen for the people of Sint Maarten.”